Office Rants


Sometimes you just can’t make it out the door to get to work.  Your nanny just got in a car accident and can’t make it to your house (true story), you’ve wasted half your day at the doctor’s office waiting for an appointment for your child (true story), or your kid is too sick and needs the TLC only a mother can provide (yes, true story).  Something unplanned comes up and your child care plans for the day are thrown out the window.  There’s nothing you can do but try to “WAH” (if you dare).  We’ve all been there and know how hard it is.

That’s why I’m going to start advocating for “kid” days.  I think employers should consider providing working parents with a couple of days a year (they can be accrued over time, if necessary) to deal with the inevitable kid-related issue that prevents you from getting out of your house in the morning.  If you’re like me, and have used up all of your sick days on maternity leave, you dread the day that you can’t come into work because of an ill-timed child emergency. 

Why should we have to use a “vacation” day for these emergencies?  Staying at home with a sick child does not sound like a vacation to me.  Why should I use an “optional” day either?  If I had the “option,” I’d be at work! 

I’m not trying to whine… I know that as parents, we are supposed to build up reserves to deal with the unplanned.  But stuff happens that is out of our control, and I think a lot of parents (at least ones that I know) would be very relieved to know that they had a couple of “kid” days saved up in the time off bank. 

I could be persuaded to advocate for “pet” days too… if only my husband would let me get that dog…

Working moms face similar issues no matter the country in which they live.  For examples, I came across this article in ShanghaiDaily.com called “Family is hard for biz women.”  In the article, Zhou Juemin, general manager of Shanghai Jinguoyuan Group is quoted as saying, “Compared with Western career women, the role of Chinese women is more complicated.” As Zhou goes on to explain, “We are always seeking a balance between our traditional role of wife and mother, and a successful career, but conflicts always exist.” 

Heard this one before?  I have.  Zhou’s advice to balance this? To transition to a “mommy” role once the work day is over.  She says, “they [mothers] are general managers at work but when they are at home they are just a wife and a mother.” 

This is starting to sound eerily familiar.  The transition from work-mode to home-mode is immediate once you enter the door.  You change from a power suit to a track suit.  You forget about PowerPoints and email and worry about veggies and bath time.  You forget who you are at work and you become “mom” to those who matter.  I don’t think you have to live in China to realize that.

I think Lisa Foderaro of the NY Times should have talked to my friend before she wrote her article about mothers enjoying business travel.  I followed up with my friend who had to travel earlier this week, and who is still breastfeeding her 4 month old daughter. Mind you, she’s only been back at work 3 weeks, so in my mind she’s a hero for taking a business trip so soon.  Her trip went something like this:
– Pump at O’Hare before she left (dumped the milk)
– Pump at client meeting. Oh yeah, the client walked in on her in the bathroom. (dumped the milk)
– Pump at LaGuardia airport. (dumped the milk)

So I’m thinking that is about 28 oz wasted of precious breast milk for a 4 hour client meeting. It’s better, however, than another story I heard from another working mom (WM) friend.  This story goes something like this:
WM kills time on flight by pumping in the bathroom when she hears pounding on the door.  WM tells person pounding they will have to wait.  More pounding.  WM says hold on. More pounding. WM gets a little edgy and says hold on.  Next thing that happens- air marshal kicks in door and finds WM pumping away.  Apparently people on the plane saw her go to the bathroom with a backpack (her pump) and decided she was in there too long and freaked.

Working moms of the world- welcome to post 9/11 travel madness.  Apparently she got a lot of apologies.  I think a free flight was in order here.

Interesting New York Times article today about how business travel brings some working mothers peace (note the qualifier “some”) and a night off to have “me” time. Hmmm… seems like the mothers they interviewed for the article had two very important factors involved in their trips:
– They either went to “cool” cities (like Las Vegas)
– Or stayed in fabulous hotels (I’ve never stayed at the Four Seasons for work)

Furthermore, it seemed the working mothers in this article had husbands who had very flexible schedules- KEY to making business travel work for a working mom.  For those of us who have had to travel for work to not such cool cities and stay in not so nice hotels, I don’t think business travel feels as good.  I’ve only had to travel once since I’ve been back for a day trip, and I was totally stressed out and exhausted by it.  I have one colleague who travels twice a month.  Another working mom colleague is dreading her first business trip.  I may have to go abroad next month for work, and my husband already told me I need at least 3 weeks notice- he doesn’t exactly fall into the “flexible work schedule” model.  The amount that I would need to plan for this trip abroad (not to Europe, either) seems a bit daunting.

Business travel peaceful? Hmm… I’ll tell you the next time I get put up at the Ritz.

Yet another article in the ongoing saga of inflexible employers. The Christian Science Monitor reports on a new study that just came out last week on the “opt out revolution”  of women leaving the workforce earlier this century.  The study finds that women didn’t really “opt out” during recessions in 2001-04. Rather, women were leaving the workforce because of inflexibility of their employers who needed face time and wouldn’t bend.   Flexibility at work increases employee engagement.  Engaged employees are more than twice as likely to want to stay with the company and invest their discretionary effort. (According to the fine folks at Towers Perrin.)  Employers- you get more if you give back- give your moms flexibility. Trust me, they’ll work harder AND be happier.

Ok, it’s about time I get on this bandwagon. Lots of discussion recently about a recent Washington Post article regarding the amazing childcare provisions and maternity leave policies the French currently offer.  You can’t imagine it if you tried- childcare subsidies, tax deductions, ridiculously cheap childcare options – all to promote mothers to continue working while helping to increase France’s population.
Now, Leslie Morgan Steiner of the Washington Post blogged about it, and suggests lightly that the US start supporting better working moms and dads.
Generally, I agree with this position. But what if it made our health insurance costs go up? or even our taxes? Is it worth it? Is France really the gold standard here?

I’m not sure, but hell, we could all use a few more weeks off with le bebe.

My blog has changed. Visit me at: http://selfmademom.net!  

I can’t wait to hear how this story plays out.  My friend has to travel for work next week and she is still breastfeeding her 4 month old daughter. So, she has to bring her pump to the client, figure out where she’s going to pump at the client and then, the kicker- try to figure out how to bring back a few bottles of frozen breast milk- all within the new travel regulations!!  Will she have to check the milk? Will it stay frozen? Where will she pump at the client or in the airport? Why does the government make it so hard for women to breastfeed while traveling, when they are pro-breastfeeding!?
See how it all turns out next week. Anyone else encounter this? I decided not to breastfeed at all, so I don’t have any experience to draw from on this one.

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